STUART, Fla. (AP) – More manatees have already died this year than in any other year in Florida history, mostly from starvation due to the loss of seagrass beds, officials said. State.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that 841 manatee deaths were recorded between January 1 and July 2, breaking the previous record of 830 deaths in 2013 from a toxic red tide outbreak.
The TCPalm website reports that more than half of the deaths have died in and around Indian River Lagoon in Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucia and Martin counties. The overwhelming majority of the deaths took place in Brevard, where 312 manatees perished.
Some biologists believe that water pollution is killing seagrass beds in the region.
“Unprecedented manatee mortality from starvation has been documented on the Atlantic coast this past winter and spring,” Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute wrote in announcing the record Friday. “Most of the deaths occurred during the colder months when manatees migrated to and through the Indian River Lagoon, where the majority of seagrass beds died.”
Collisions with boats are also a major cause of manatee deaths, killing at least 63 people this year.
The manatee was once listed as endangered by the federal government, but was reclassified as threatened in 2017. Environmentalists are calling for the animal to be considered endangered again.
The federal government says about 6,300 manatees live in Florida waters, up from about 1,300 in the early 1990s.